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How Switzerland plans to roll out the coronavirus vaccine

While Switzerland has said the coronavirus vaccine will not be mandatory, fines or obligations for people in specific jobs are being considered.

How Switzerland plans to roll out the coronavirus vaccine
A doctor administers a vaccine in a hospital in Lausanne. Photo: Richard Juilliart / AFP

According to reports, the coronavirus vaccine is likely to be available by the spring of 2021 in Switzerland. 

However, while it would appear that securing a safe and effective vaccine would be the major hurdle, the actual process of vaccination is also likely to prove difficult. 

In particular, convincing vaccine sceptics is likely to be difficult. 

In order to be effective, between 60 and 70 percent of the population in Switzerland needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

EXPLAINED: When will Switzerland roll out a Covid-19 vaccine? 

In a country where only around 15 percent of people are vaccinated against the flu, getting to that figure poses a range of challenges. 

No compulsory vaccine

As has been repeated frequently by the Swiss government, any coronavirus vaccine will not be made compulsory. 

While Health Minister Alain Berset has frequently ruled out making the vaccine mandatory, even if the government wanted to it is unlikely such a measure would be allowed under Swiss law. 

That said, there is the possibility that people in certain industries would be required to undergo a vaccination. 

“Immunisation will be obligatory for people in certain jobs whose work brings them in close contact with the public,” said Dominique Sprumont, deputy director of the Institute of Health Law at the University of Neuchâtel. 

Health Minister Alain Berset pointed out that he is “open” to mandating the vaccine for those who work in the healthcare sector and elderly care homes.

“If an employee refuses, then they would have to work elsewhere, in a place where they don't come in contact with people at risk,” Berset said.

He added that if the controversy arises when the vaccine becomes available, “we would hope to resolve this problem pragmatically, as we've always done in our country”.

How would this work?

Some employers could decide only to hire people who have been vaccinated – or to require their existing staff to get vaccinated. 

Similarly, schools, hospitals and nursing homes may decide to only accept people who have been vaccinated, reports NZZ

While Swiss law prevents a mandatory vaccination regime, it appears there is nothing to stop the government putting in place fines for anyone who refuses to get vaccinated. 

Legal experts suggest while this would be legal, it may be politically difficult to achieve. 

Instead, there is legal precedent for a law which requires people in specific industries to get vaccinated. 

A Swiss court in 2006 decided that the dismissal of an employee in a hospital who refused a hepatitis B vaccine was “neither arbitrary or disproportionate” and thereby could be upheld. 

Easier in private than in public

Lorenz Langer, professor of public law at the University of Zurich, told the NZZ that an obligation to vaccinate “may be justified in exceptional situations”. 

Langer said that such a requirement would be easier to enforce in the public sphere rather than in the private sphere. 

While employees of public hospitals and schools may be prevented from an obligation to vaccinate due to Swiss law, employees in entities which do not receive government funding could be required to vaccinate. 

Langer argued that private schools could require students and teachers to be vaccinated, while sports clubs and even landlords could require participants and tenants to be vaccinated. 

The Federal Supreme Court has already said that the Child and Adult Protection Authority (KESB) in each canton may decide on whether children should be vaccinated when parents refuse, although this was in the case of measles rather than coronavirus.  

 

 

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TAXES

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here. 

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